WEAVERVILLE – North Buncombe football has come a long way in three years under Curtis Cagle.
The coach inherited a program in 2012 that could barely find 22 bodies to fill helmets and pads. And the attrition showed in the wins and losses.
Cagle and the Black Hawks bounced back from a 0-11 season three years ago with a 3-8 mark in 2013 and went 7-5 last fall.
Clearly, things are trending the right way.
“Oh yeah, there are more kids coming out than ever before,” Cagle said.
“Some of these kids are really good athletes who had only been playing one sport. They’re going to step in and help us right away. We welcome everyone in this football program. There’s a lot of excitement that comes with what these kids have done the past couple seasons. They have earned it with their time and effort.”
Building around some of the most proven skill-position players in the Mountain Athletic Conference will be paramount for North Buncombe.
Chase Parker (2,487 yards and 17 touchdowns with 13 interceptions) was an All-MAC quarterback in 2014 with fellow seniors Ricky Thrash (94 receptions for 978 yards and five touchdowns), Mason Isgrig (16 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns) and Austin Sheperd (10 receptions for 96 yards) snagging his spirals.
Thrash garnered All-MAC and Citizen-Times All-WNC recognition as a junior. He made 33 more receptions than any other mountain receiver who is back for this season.
Former state high jump champion Blake Matthews is also joining that receiving corps. He is a junior. Seniors Jeremy Peterson and Dawson Davis are in the mix as well.
The Black Hawks have some good rushing options as well in their spread offense. Colby Maltry (452 yards, 10 touchdowns) has transferred from Erwin and backfield mate Daniel Candler formerly played for Enka.
Juniors Andrew Beck and Austin Ponder are veteran members of their offensive line.
Defensively, seniors Isgrig, Chase Casteel and former All-MAC selection Peter Simonovich are back on the line. As far as linebackers go, Sammy MacDonald averaged 7.0 tackles a game last fall.
Tommy Apostolopoulos has proven ability as a kicker.
North Buncombe should have about 40 total players for its Aug. 21 season opener at home against Pisgah.
The Black Hawks close out the MAC portion of their schedule with heavyweights Erwin (Oct. 23), Asheville (Oct. 29) and Reynolds (Nov. 6).
“We’ve got a lot of kids who are stepping up,” Cagle said.
“I’m sure that’s what everyone says this time of the year, but they have. Right now, it looks good. But we’re just beating and banging on each other. Our experienced players are going to have to anchor down and we’ll see how the others respond under fire.”
Cagle has been named an assistant coach for the 2016 East-West All-Star game in Greensboro.
Conference: Mountain Athletic 3-A/4-A.
Coach: Curtis Cagle (10-24 career record).
2014 record: 7-5, 3-3.
Returning starters: 12 (seven offense, five defense).
Predicted conference finish: Fifth.
NORTH BUNCOMBE ROSTER
No. | Player
2 Dawson Davis
3 Graham Bradley
4 Blake Mathews
5 Chase Parker
6 David Elkins
7 Connor Davis
8 Mason Isgrig
9 Ricky Thrash
10 Jeremy Peterson
11 Logan Anderson
12 Nick Lisenbee
19 Sean Kirchner
20 Dmitriy Simonovich
24 Colby Maltry
30 Chase Casteel
40 Peter Simonovich
43 Heath Davis
50 Braden Bradley
52 Jacoby Massey
53 John Kiger
54 Sammy MacDonald
55 Matt Ruiz
57 Dillon Robinson
58 David Maynor
60 Austin Grant
63 Andrew Beck
64 Jackson Ramsey
66 Abi Hernandez
68 Rylan Rhodes
70 Austin Ponder
74 Harrison Edmonds
75 Jacob Villemange
77 Coleton Sprinkle
88 Tommy Apostolopoulos